For many years, Ryan Bader stood out as one of the best light heavyweights in the UFC. In 2017, however, the long-time contender parted was with the UFC, and migrated to the ever-growing Bellator MMA roster.
In a matter of months, he had defeated Phil Davis to become the Bellator MMA light heavyweight champ.
Today, Bader is still the Bellator light heavyweight king, but he has spent his last two fights in the heavyweight division, competing in the promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix. On January 26, he’ll battle heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko in the Grand Prix finals, with the winner being crowned Bellator heavyweight champ.
Ahead of this massive challenge, Ryan Bader spoke to MMAjunkie, and discussed the state of the UFC light heavyweight division he left behind, which is once again ruled by Jon Jones.
From the sounds of it, Bader isn’t too impressed. In fact, he considers the division quite shallow.
“I don’t feel the UFC’s light heavyweight division is very deep at all,” he said. “There’s a handful of guys they keep regurgitating to fight for the belt. There’s not too many to pull from there.”
That being said, Bader does feel there’s still plenty of world class fighters out there for Bellator to poach.
“Yeah, there’s always guys out there floating around, but I haven’t really thought about it too much,” he said. “Bellator is doing a great job attracting these high-level guys, and that’s going to come with just a little bit of time.”
Bellator has made waves over the last few years, signing a procession of high-profile free agents — Ryan Bader included. The Bellator light heavyweight titleholder expects this trend to continue, as more and more fighters see how well the promotion treats people.
“The word’s getting out we’re treated well over here,” he said. “To be able to have this (Bellator heavyweight) Grand Prix, and we saw Darrion Caldwell fight in Japan, and so that’s attractive to us.”
What do you think of these comments from Ryan Bader?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 1/15/2019.